How Often Do Breast Tissue Expanders Fail Due to Manufacturer's Error?

I had a bi-lateral mastectomy and tissue expanders put in Sept. 9th. The left side failed because of 5 needle size holes and was replaced on Oct. 29th. Now the left side has failed again and I am having it replaced tomorrow. How often does this happen? Am I doing something wrong?

Doctor Answers 11

Defective Expander

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I am sorry to hear of your defective expander.  First off, I assure you that there is nothing you are doing wrong and very little you can do to prevent this.   It is extremely rare to have a defective expander due to mechanical failure.  It is even more unlikely for this to occur twice.    Your surgeon should be able to determine the exact etiology based on intraoperative exam of the defective expander.   I wish you a safe recovery.


Paul S. Gill, M.D.

Gill Plastic Surgery

Houston Double Board Certified Plastic Surgeon

Houston Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

Tissue Expander Failure

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This is extremely rare.  You can contact the company that made the expander and ask them for exact statistics.

Gary D. Breslow, MD, FACS
Paramus Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 44 reviews

Expander failure rates

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Tissue expanders have a failure rate from manufacturing but it is quite low. More commonly, the expanders are inadvertently damaged during placement or during expansions. Using an inert dye such as Methylene blue inside the expander allows for identification of leaks created during surgery or in the early postoperative period via blue dye in the drain outputs. Having 5 holes in a single expander sounds less of a manufacturing problem and more like punctures from a needle. If a device is suspected of malfunction, it is protocol to return it to the manufacturer for integrity checks. To answer your question, it is not something that you are doing "wrong" and there is not much you can do to prevent it.

David Bogue, MD
Boca Raton Plastic Surgeon
5.0 out of 5 stars 26 reviews

Failed tissue expanders

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The expanders perform well.Sometimes the expander can shift in the pocket and it is difficult to locate the expansion port even with the magnet.I recently had to replace one that I had punctured because the expander flipped over on itself and once there are holes you have to replace it so it  is not a manufacturing defect. 

Robert Brueck, MD
Fort Myers Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 70 reviews

Tissue Expander Integrity

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Tissue expander implants are safe medical devices.  No medical devices are 100% perfect.  Expanders can have problems, but device failure is extremely rare.  It can happen however.   Given that you mentioned there were five "needle" holes on one side and now that you have  deflation on the other side suggests that the filling port (large target area) may have been missed - hence creating a leak.  Replacement of your tissue expander implant is the correct solution. 

Tissue expanders

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Like any other manufacturer, both major manufacturer of tissue expanders produce high quality products and their products, expanders and implants go through rigorous quality program.


Multiple needle holes are probably due to happen when trying to inject the expander valve to inflate it, one can miss the valve and hit the expander.


Samir Shureih, MD
Baltimore Plastic Surgeon

Breast Tissue Expanders Fail Due to Manufacturer's Error

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From your posted explanation I suspect it is the IN-experience of the doctor injector! This is why if you do not have an injector take their time injecting you have deflations. Discuss with your surgeon. From MIAMI Dr. darryl J. Blinski, 305 598 0091

Tissue expander failure

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Tissue expanders are durable products. If you sustained a puncutre holes during filling, this is a possiblity to the cause of your deflation not necessarily to manufacturer error.

Steven Wallach, MD
New York Plastic Surgeon
4.2 out of 5 stars 30 reviews

Failure of expanders

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The failure of expanders to complete the task is rare but can be due to multiple factors. This depends on the type of expander that is used. A remote port type requires connections between the expander, the tubing, and the port. There can be failure to secure each connection so that the fluid leaks at these connection points. This can be a surgeon's error. Another type has a built-in port that requires a magnetic locator to locate the port. Again surgeon error can occur so that the needles do not enter the port at the right location or the right angle. Manufacturer's failure do not produce five needle holes.

Robin T.W. Yuan, MD
Beverly Hills Plastic Surgeon

Breast implant tissue expanders are relatively reliable

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This sounds hihgly atypical. I have placed many tissue expanders and although mechanical failures do occur, they are relatively rare.

Otto Joseph Placik, MD
Chicago Plastic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 86 reviews

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.